10 Immune Boosting Vitamins

Your immune system is a fairly complex collection of cells.

It also involves various processes and chemicals.

Your body is constantly working as a large network to protect you from invading pathogens.

These include invaders such as viruses, bacteria, and toxins.

We often think about boosting the immune system during cold and flu season or during times like the covid 19 pandemic.

But in order to prevent infection and disease, it’s important to keep your immune system healthy all throughout the year.

The best way to do this is by eating nutritious food and making sure you get enough exercise and sleep.

You can get an extra immune boost by supplementing with certain herbs, vitamins, and minerals-these work by improving your immune response and by protecting against illness.

It is important to note that certain supplements may interact with prescription or even over-the-counter medications you may be taking.

And some vitamin supplements may not be safe for people with certain health conditions.

This is why it’s important to talk to your health care provider before starting any of these best vitamins for immune system boosting.

1) Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. Research shows that a vitamin A deficiency impairs your innate immune system. It does this by interfering with the normal regeneration of mucosal barriers in your body that have been damaged by infection. Vitamin A deficiency also decreases the functioning of the neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells. These are all important immune system cells.

Vitamin A is also important for what we call adaptive immunity. It plays a role in the development of two important immune cells: T helper cells and B cells. Vitamin A deficiency diminishes the antibody-mediated responses that the Th2 cells direct.

2) Vitamin D

Like vitamin A, vitamin D is also a fat-soluble nutrient. Vitamin D is essential to the proper functioning of your immune system and your overall health. Monocytes and macrophages are white blood cells. They are an important part of your immune system. Vitamin D3 enhances the infection-fighting effects of monocytes and macrophages. Vitamin D also helps to manage inflammation. This helps to promote the immune response.

Vitamin D deficiency is fairly common. This can have an impact on your immune health. Low vitamin D levels are correlated with a higher risk of upper respiratory infections. These infections include the flu and allergic asthma.

There are studies showing that taking a vitamin D dietary supplement can improve the immune response. Vitamin D can help protect you from contracting respiratory tract infections.

A 2019 study looked at a total of 11,321 people. This study showed that supplementing with vitamin D significantly decreased infectious respiratory illness risk in those with deficiency. In those participants who had sufficient levels of vitamin D, supplementation still lowered the risk of infection. This shows us that vitamin D has an overall protective effect.

There is also research showing that supplementing with vitamin D can improve response to antiviral treatments. This goes for people with certain infections, including the human immunodeficiency virus (called HIV for short) and hepatitis C.

A typical vitamin D supplement will provide between 1000 and 4000 International units per day. But if you have a more serious vitamin D deficiency, then you may require doses much higher than this.

Vitamin D metabolizing enzymes and receptors are present in many immune cells. This includes antigen-presenting cells, T cells, B cells, and monocytes. Research shows that vitamin D helps to modulate innate immune cells. It can also help to improve your overall immunological status. Research done in both animals and humans alike shows that vitamin D has beneficial effects on immune function.

You can also consume vitamin D through the diet by eating foods such as oily fish. Fatty fish contain fatty acids that have the additional benefit of increasing absorption of vitamin D. This is because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.

3) Zinc

Zinc is a mineral. You may have seen it in immune booster health products like capsules or lozenges. This is because zinc can help boost your immune function. Immune cells need zinc for their development and communication. Inc also plays a significant role in the inflammatory response. A zinc deficiency can impact your immune system’s ability to function properly. This can lead to a higher risk of infection and disease.

Zinc deficiency is actually fairly common. It affects about two billion people around the world. It is especially common in older adults. Approximately 30 percent of older adults have a zinc deficiency.

Several studies show that zinc supplements can help protect against respiratory tract infections like the common cold. Zinc supplements can actually also help people who have already caught a cold. A 2019 study looked at 64 children in hospitals with acute lower respiratory tract infections. These children took 30 milligrams of zinc per day. This helped to decrease the duration of the infection. It also decreased the length of their hospital stay by two days on average compared to the placebo group. Taking zinc supplements can also help shorten the duration of the common cold.

Long-term zinc supplementation is generally recognized as safe for healthy adults. Just be sure to keep the daily dose under 40 milligrams of elemental zinc, as this is the upper limit. High doses of zinc can interfere with the absorption of copper. This could boost your risk of infection.

Zinc was discovered in the 1960s. Since then, it has become apparent just how important zinc is to the immune system. Zinc ions help to regulate signaling pathways from one cell to another in innate and adaptive immune cells. Zinc is known as the gatekeeper of immune function. This is because of zinc’s effects on the homeostasis of key signaling molecules and its effects on epigenetics.

4) Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the most well-known vitamins for boosting the immune system, and for good reason. Vitamin C has an important role in immune health. It supports the function of several immune cells. It also enhances immune cells’ ability to protect against infections.

Vitamin C has an important role in cellular death. I know this may not necessarily sound like a good thing, but cellular death helps to keep your immune system healthy. It does this by clearing out old cells to make room for new, healthier ones.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. This means that it helps to protect against oxidative stress. This happens when free radicals accumulate. It can negatively impact immune health and is linked to several diseases, including cancer.

Taking a vitamin C supplement can help reduce the duration and severity of the common cold and other upper respiratory tract infections. A study looked at 29 studies involving 11,306 participants. It found that regular supplementation with one to two grams of vitamin C daily reduced the duration of colds by eight percent in adults. It was able to do the same in 14 percent of children. This same study also found that taking vitamin C supplements reduces the common cold by 50 percent in people under physical stress. For example, subjects included marathon runners and soldiers.

People can also take vitamin C through an IV. IV vitamin C can significantly improve symptoms in people with severe infections. This includes sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) from viral infections.

Overall, results show that vitamin C supplements can affect immune health in a positive way. This is especially true for those people who don’t get enough vitamin C in their diet.

The upper limit for vitamin C intake is 2000 milligrams. Most people who take supplements take a dose of between 250 and 1000 milligrams.

Vitamin C helps with immune defense by supporting several cellular functions. These are functions of both the innate and adaptive immune systems. Vitamin C also helps to build up the epithelial barrier function against pathogens. It builds up in phagocytic cells like neutrophils. Ultimately, Vitamin C can help increase the killing of microbes.

Plus, vitamin C is important for apoptosis (cell death) and clearing old neutrophils from infection sites by macrophages. This helps to decrease necrosis and potential tissue damage. Vitamin C can enhance the differentiation and proliferation of B cells and T cells. This is likely due to vitamin C’s gene-regulating effects.

Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infection. Supplementing with vitamin C can help to prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections. Preventing infection requires vitamin C intake at levels that saturate plasma levels. This helps optimize cell and tissue levels of vitamin C. Treating pre-existing infections with vitamin C requires higher doses. This is in order to make up for the increased inflammatory response and metabolic demand.

Elderberry is high in vitamin C. This is why many people take elderberry extract in order to boost their immune systems. You may have also heard of the immune-boosting benefits of echinacea. Echinacea also contains vitamin C. Other foods rich in vitamin C include the following:

  • Oranges

  • Grapefruits

  • Tangerines

  • Strawberries

  • Bell peppers

  • Spinach

  • Kale

  • Broccoli

Vitamin C is one of the best immune system boosters out there. Daily intake of vitamin C through the diet is important because your body can’t make its own vitamin C. In fact, your body can’t store vitamin C, either. This is why it’s important to make sure that you are getting enough vitamin C each and every day.

5) Probiotics

Supplementing with probiotics can help to slow or reverse declines in immune function. One study looked at the effect of probiotic supplements on cellular innate immune activity in healthy elderly adults. They found that probiotic supplementation increased polymorphonuclear phagocytic capacity compared to controls. Researchers concluded that short-term probiotic supplements could increase cellular immune function in healthy elderly adults.

6) Vitamin B12

Research shows that our complex, integrated immune systems need vitamin B12. We need enough vitamin B12 in order to have proper functioning of physical barriers to infection. It’s also important for immune cells. Current research shows that supplementing with multiple micronutrients with immune-supporting roles such as vitamin B12 may modulate immune function and reduce your risk of infection.

B vitamins sometimes come in the form of a B complex supplement. This includes other B vitamins such as niacin and folic acid. This may be a good route to go to make sure you have all of your B vitamin bases covered.

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7) Vitamin E

Studies on both animals and humans under both normal and disease conditions show that vitamin E can have immunomodulatory effects. Studies now look at vitamin E’s effects on specific immune cells. Vitamin E can help to modulate the immune system. It can also be helpful in immunological diseases.

8) Copper

Recent evidence shows that copper has an important role in the immune system. Copper deficiency leads to lowered humoral and cell-mediated, and non-specific immune function. Impairment of immune function can be closely correlated with a higher incidence of infection. Animals with copper deficiency tend to have higher mortality rates. Researchers have concluded that copper has possible roles in modulating the immune system.

9) Selenium

Selenium is a mineral that is essential for immune health. Animal research shows that selenium supplements can increase antiviral defense. This defense goes up against various strains of the flu, including the H1N1 strain. Selenium plays an important role in a wide variety of physiological processes. One of these is its effects on immune responses. The immune system depends upon having enough selenium intake. Selenium exerts its biological effects through its incorporation into selenoproteins. Dysregulation of selenium’s immune functions can lead to inflammation or immune-related diseases.

10) Beta-glucans

Beta-glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides. They are made up of glucose polymers. People in Eastern countries have used beta-glucans for their immunostimulating properties for thousands of years. Mushrooms contain biologically active polysaccharides, mostly beta-glucans. They help to increase immune defense by activating complement systems, enhancing macrophages, and through their natural killer cell function.

There are over 270 recognized species of medicinal mushrooms. They are known to contain beta-glucans and therefore have immune-enhancing properties. Some examples of these medicinal mushrooms that exert immune-boosting function include the following:

  • Cordyceps

  • Lion’s mane

  • Maitake

  • Shitake

  • Reishi

  • Turkey tail

Research shows that supplementing with certain medicinal mushrooms can enhance immune health in multiple ways. They can also reduce symptoms of conditions like asthma and lung infections. One study looked at mice with tuberculosis. This is a serious bacterial infection. Research found that treating tuberculosis with cordyceps mushrooms greatly reduced bacterial load in the lungs. It also enhanced the immune response and reduced inflammation compared to placebo.

One study looked at 79 adults over a period of eight weeks. The subjects were supplemented with 1.7 grams of cordyceps mycelium culture extract. This led to a 38 percent boost in natural killer cell activity. Natural killer cells are a type of white blood cell that protects against infection.

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Turkey tail mushroom is another medicinal mushroom that has significant effects on immune health. Research in humans shows that turkey tail mushrooms can increase the immune response. This is especially true in certain types of cancer. Several other types of medicinal mushrooms have been studied for their benefits on immune function as well. You can purchase medicinal mushroom products like teas, tinctures, or capsule form.

Beta-glucans in medicinal mushrooms can induce cellular responses. They do this because of their specific interaction with several cell surface receptors, such as complement receptor 3 (called CR3 for short). Beta-glucans act as an immunostimulating agent through the activation of macrophages and natural killer cell cytotoxicity. Beta-glucans can also inhibit tumor growth!

Conclusion

The immune system is like the military branch of your body. It defends and protects it. It’s important! It’s hard to maintain general health if your body is having to constantly fight against infections. You may want to try some vitamins, like vitamin A, B12, C, D, or E. Certain minerals could be helpful, like zinc, copper, or selenium. Other substances can be helpful in boosting the immune system, too, like probiotics or beta-glucans.

Keep in mind the importance of a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle changes like sleep and exercise. These also have a profound impact on your immune system. That’s why it’s important to get these healthy habits in as part of your lifestyle first. If you do decide to go for a supplement, it’s important you speak to a health care provider first! Do also keep in mind that although the supplements discussed in this article may help you have a strong immune system, the jury is still out on their coronavirus impact.

Sources

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  5. Lee, GY & Han, SN. (2018). The role of vitamin E in immunity. Nutrients. 10 (11), 1614.
  6. Miller, LE; Lehtoranta, L & Lehtinen, MJ. (2019). Short-term probiotic supplementation enhances cellular immune function in healthy elderly: systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled studies. Nutr Res. 1 (64), 1-8.
  7. Prietl, B; Greiber, G; Pieber, TR & Amrein, K. (2013). Vitamin D and immune function. Nutrients. 5 (7), 2502-21.
  8.  Stabel, JR & Spears, JW. (1989). Effect of copper on immune function and disease resistance. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1 (258), 243-52.
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